Profits to be had in protection of wildlife
CHANGING management to protect wildlife can increase profits according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Gwynfor Evans, who manages the 4647ha (11,500-acre) estate in Powys that the RSPB has run for Severn Trent Water since 1956, says that since winter grazing pressure was reduced on moorland above Lake Vernwy Reservoir and heather managed to encourage bird life, average ewe size has increased and lambs can be finished rather than sold as stores.
"Before the changes we could weigh four store lambs in one crate before our big September sale. Now we can finish Welsh lambs at 36kg and Texel crosses at 46kg."
Mike Walker, the RSPBs manager on the estate told Farmers Union of Wales president Bob Parry and some of his local members that bird life, especially black and red grouse, merlins and short eared owls, had also benefited.
"We were driven to agree to manage this land by the importance of its habitats, but we also wanted to show that we are in the real world by trying to farm it commercially," said Mr Walker. "We cant just preach to farmers and expect them to do things if it means they cannot make a profit. Here we are doing valuable conservation work and have increased the farming profitability."
Stocking rate had not changed as a good moorland cutting and burning policy for what had been impenetrable heather meant that there was more grass, ewe nutrition had improved, and lambing percentage had increased from 62 to 94. *
Commercially aware… Mike Walker (left) and Gwynfor Evans from the RSPCA claim that conservation can pay.